Yearly Archives: 2011

Whoosh! There goes 2011

Whoosh!  There goes 2011. What a year. Foster’s decided grape and grain didn’t mix; Constellation Brands USA sold the historic Leasingham winery to Clare winemaker, Tim Adams; Woolworths and Coles share of domestic wine sales hit 79 per cent; and winemakers across eastern Australia endured the coldest, wettest vintage in over a decade.

Under these conditions mildew and late-season botrytis flourished, destroying some crops. But the total volumes were higher than anticipated. Many in the industry believe opportunistic buying of rotten grapes below production costs resulted in much poor quality wine being produced and likely to be exported. This is a concern for our reputation, say the critics.

Despite the conditions, many outstanding whites have been produced, including botrytis-infected stickies – and even some dry rieslings showing botrytis aromas and flavours. The best riesling, pinot gris and sauvignon blanc seem outstanding. The top chardonnays won’t appear until next year, but might also be excellent. We’ll have to wait before delivering a verdict on the reds, too.

As a consequence of the cool conditions, makers across eastern Australia reported high than normal acidity and lower sugar levels in grapes. Where grapes achieved full flavour ripeness, the higher acidity and lower alcohol (a consequence of reduced sugar levels) could be beneficial. However, there will almost certainly be wines out there with the telltale green flavours of under-ripeness. And we’ve heard of some instances of winemakers having to reduce acid levels – rare indeed in Australia.

Canberra and surrounding districts felt the pinch of the cool wet season as much as any region. While we won’t know until next year how good the reds are, some of the whites look brilliant, if a little restrained and austere when first released.

Riesling, for example, always shy and unrevealing at first, seemed this year even more closed than usual – a phenomenon explained in this email from Brindabella Hills proprietor, Dr Roger Harris:

We understand your concern about the variability of show results, and we think that this is in part due to the early date of the Canberra Regional Wine Show.  Current vintage whites are only just bottled (in our case 25 July) and are still in cold storage conditions (<10degreesC) and have had no time to recover from bottle shock. Dissolved gases (CO2, SO2) have yet to equilibrate, and release of important aroma producing terpenes has yet to happen.  The rieslings in particular appear dumb and neutral.  The filling out of flavours as temperatures warm in spring is quite amazing. For the record, the 2010 riesling missed a medal in the 2010 CRWS but was rated five stars by James Halliday (December tasting)”.

The district wine show, held in September, once again poured praise liberally over shiraz from Canberra and surrounding districts, while remaining somewhat more subdued about our other established specialty, riesling – perhaps for the reasons explained above by Roger Harris.

However, riesling and other varieties – notably Clonakilla viognier, Lark Hill gruner veltliner and Mount Majura tempranillo, shiraz graciano – received their share of praise from numerous critics around Australia. James Halliday, for example, rated Canberra the leading riesling district in New South Wales, and its best on a par with those from Clare Valley, Eden Valley, Great Southern and Tasmania.

And if our regional show might better display our new-vintage whites if moved back a few months, Canberra’s National Wine Show of Australia finally achieved one if its key objectives – attracting entries from high-quality small producers. The show’s credibility soared in November when small-maker wines of the calibre of PHI Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2010 and Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay 2010 cracked the big trophies.

The year also saw changes in vineyard ownership around the district. In November 2010, Peter Wiggs, of Archer Capital, and Peter Howland, winemaker, acquired the Lake George vineyard, established by Dr Edgar Riek in 1971, from Theo and Sam Karelas. Unfortunately, the vineyard suffered badly from disease in 2011, so we’ll have to wait and see how they fare in 2012.

In May, Chris Coffman’s Eden Road Wines took over Doonkuna Estate, one of Canberra’s oldest vineyards. The purchase lands Eden Road plum in Murrumbateman’s reputation-making shiraz and riesling belt – giving the vineyard perhaps its best hope in nearly forty years.

And in August, the Carpenter family’s Lark Hill Winery bought an established 3.6-hectare vineyard at Murrumbateman, securing long-term supplies of shiraz and viognier.

On the retail front, Coles and Woolworths increased their grip on the national wine trade, seizing around 80 per cent of domestic sales, according to Nielsen figures. Sadly, one of Canberra’s strong independent retailers, Jim Murphy, died in May, but his family continues to run Airport and Market cellars. Long may they prosper.

Two months after Murphy’s death, US-based Costco opened in Canberra, injecting stiff competition to the majors, at the top end of the wine market, with its eclectic, well-chosen and low-price wine offerings.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
First published 21 December 2011 in The Canberra Times

Wine review — Seppelt, Pol Roger, Majella, Curly Flat, Penfolds and Grosset

Seppelt St Peters Shiraz 2008 $52.25–$69
St Peters Vineyard, Grampians, Victoria

Legendary winemaker, Colin Preece, managed Seppelt’s Great Western cellars from 1932 to 1963. Although perhaps more famous for his sparkling reds than still table wines, Preece made glorious long-lived reds from the old shiraz vines that still surround the winery. I suspect he’d approve of Emma Woods’ magnificent 2008 from those old vines. It captures the elegant but powerful regional style – vibrant, dark-berry fruit flavours with deep, spicy, savoury vein and a firm but gentle grip of tannin. For a comparatively modest price you get a wine of great complexity with a long pedigree. It’s built to last, but with a good splash in the decanter will provide superb Christmas drinking.

Pol Roger
Extra Cuvee de Reserve Champagne Vintage 2000 $81–$114

Great Champagne starts with great grapes but includes the patina of aromas, flavours and textures that come from skilful blending, the inclusion of special reserve wines and prolonged ageing on yeast lees in bottle. In great wines these winemaker add-ons never overwhelm the superior fruit that, finally, separates the greats from the also-rans. Pol Roger 2000 (a 60:40 blend of pinot noir and chardonnay) ranks among the greats. The pale golden colour, persistent mousse, teaming, tiny bubbles, mature pinot and chardonnay aroma and intense but oh-so-delicate palate thrill like few wines do. Few Champagnes at this price match the quality.

Majella Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $30–$33
Majella Vineyard, Coonawarra, South Australia
Majella appeals on several fronts, starting with its vivid, crimson colour. But the aroma really draws us in. It really sings, thanks, in part to a perfect matching of oak and fruit. The combination lifts the fruit aroma, adding sweet floral notes to a wonderful cedar-like character that combines oak with Coonawarra’s beautiful, vibrant blackberry-like varietal flavour. The very friendly, juicy palate closely reflects the aromas. It has the harmonious, drink-now appeal for Christmas. But it’s a wine of substance and complexity, capable of cellaring for many years.

Curly Flat Pinot Noir 2008 $48–$54
Curly Flat Vineyard, Macedon Ranges, Victoria
We’ve revisited Phillip and Jenny Moraghan’s lovely 2008 pinot several times this year, bought a case for the cellar and have it on Chateau Shanahan’s Christmas lunch menu. It bears the thumbprint of the hot vintage, but not in the most obvious way – as the alcohol’s just 12.6 per cent. The fruit flavour, however, sits more in the dark-berry and than red-berry spectrum. And the firm tannins holding the fruit in check also reflect the warm growing conditions. So, rather than a big, hot wine, we have a fragrant, complex, savoury, elegant pinot with delicious fruit under the taut structure.

Penfolds Reserve Bin 09A Chardonnay $71.25–$90
Adelaide Hills, South Australia
Penfolds “white Grange” project of the early nineties produced the company’s flagship white, the multi-region Yattarna Chardonnay, and this superb sidekick from the Adelaide Hills. Putting the two in a Burgundy context, we might compare the oh-so-refined Yattarna with Montrachet and the more robust Reserve Bin A with Meursault. In 2009 the style seems a little less powerful than the 2008 – the aroma combining “struck match” character with intense grapefruit and nectarine-like varietal notes. The intense palate presents the same flavour characters, all tied together by lean, taut, brisk acidity. It’s a complex, distinctive wine to enjoy for many years – or luxurious company for your Christmas lobster.

Grosset Springvale Vineyard Watervale Riesling 2011 $36
Despite widespread crop losses to mildew and botrytis, the wet, cold 2011 vintage delivered stunning quality in some white varieties where growers kept disease at bay and processed only clean fruit. The cool growing conditions produced higher than average acidity which, when combined with fully ripened fruit, meant the sort of intense, fine flavours seen in Jeffrey Grosset’s two rieslings from Clare sub-regions Watervale and Polish Hill. For Christmas drinking we favour the delicate Watervale over the more austere Polish Hill wine. We love its delicate lime-like flavours and bone-dry finish.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
First published 21 December 2011 in The Canberra Times


Cider and beer review — Comte Louis de Lauriston and Samuel Adams

Comte Louis de Lauriston Poire 750ml $23
This Norman cider, made from 10 different pear varieties, provides dazzling acidity, pure, delicate pear flavours and pleasingly, teasingly, bone-dry finish. It has all the racy freshness of the just-ripe fruit itself. The maker captures the fruitiness through a cold fermentation, followed by a secondary fermentation in bottle to produce the bubbles.

Samuel Adams Noble Pils 355ml $3.70
This is a distinctive American interpretation of the classic Bohemian style pilsener, using Bohemian malted barley and hops originating in Bavaria and the Czech Republic. A pungent, seductive hops aroma lures us into the rich, smooth, malty palate, cut by the pungent flavours and lingering, clean bitterness of the hops.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
First published 21 December 2011 in The Canberra Times


Wine review — Wynns Coonawarra Estate, Cumulus Wines and Seppelt

Wynns Coonawarra Estate
Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $19.80
Wynns’ dark, crimson-rimmed favourite presents a distinctly Coonawarra side of cabernet, including black-olive and cassis-like flavours, bound up in sweet, spicy oak. It’s a buoyant, balanced cabernet – generous but elegant, with fine, firm tannins. It remains one of Australia’s best value, long-term cellaring wines. It’s probably better now than it’s ever been. As I write, Woolworths-owned Dan Murphy is offering it at $19.80 as part of six-bottle buy. At this price, it’s probably one of the best value cabernets in the world. While it drinks well now with high-protein food (this softens the tannins), it can cellar for decades under the right storage conditions.

Cumulus Wines Orange Chardonnay 2009 $30
Winemaker Debbie Lauritz used all the best chardonnay making techniques on this pleasing wine – only free-run juice, fermentation with both wild and cultured yeasts in new French oak barriques, lees stirring and partial malolactic fermentation. Free-run juice means a fine texture and intense fruit flavour. All the other bits mesh aroma, texture and flavour with that fruit. Add a couple of years’ age and we get a full-flavoured chardonnay (grapefruit and white peach varietal character), a honeyed, mature note and a vibrantly fresh, richly textured palate. It’s ready to drink now and would make good company for Christmas lobster and prawns.

Seppelt Chalambar Grampians Bendigo Shiraz 2009 $18.95–$26
Across years of corporate ownership changes, Seppelt’s Victorian reds retained their identity and quality under the long reign of winemaker Ian McKenzie then, in recent years, Emma Wood. Today’s highly polished wines contain fruit from both long-established vineyards and others planted on plum Victorian sites during the 1990s. The often-discounted Chalambar, a blend from the Grampians and Bendigo, offers vibrant, sweet, red-berry flavours with delicious, cool-climate spices and a touch of cedar-like character from maturation in French oak. The wine delivers layers of satisfying flavours and a deep, rich, smooth texture. Brilliant wine at the price.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
First published 18 December 2011 in The Canberra Times

Wine review — Brown Brothers, Terra Felix, Golden Ball, J.J. Christoffel Erben, Araldica Flori and Dominique Portet

Brown Brothers Pinot Noir Chardonnay Pinot Meunier NV $18.95–$22
King Valley, Victoria
At the top end, Australia’s cutting edge bubblies, like Arras, come up against the French originals in both price and quality. At the bottom, any number of clean, fresh, but fairly bland bubblies do the trick. In the middle ground, Brown Brothers impresses because skilled winemaking adds a patina of complex flavours and textures around exactly the right type of fruit flavours. This comes from the classic Champagne varieties grown in cooler parts of Victoria’s King Valley and Whitlands Plateau.

Terra Felix E’Vette’s Block Mourvedre 2009 $17.50–$25
Lake Marmal (near Bendigo), Central Victoria
We associate the late-ripening mourvedre with much warmer regions than Bendigo. But, though not as inky black as a Barossa version, the wine delivered full, ripe flavours, with mourvedre’s undercurrent of spice, earth and quite firm, savoury tannins. The combination of bright fruit and savoury, fine tannins worked particularly well with the mildly spice food served at Ethiopia Down Under, Pearce shops.

Golden Ball Shiraz 2008 $50
Golden Ball Vineyard, Beechworth, Victoria
We tend not to go all the way on a first date. But James and Janine McLaurin’s wines push straight to the top shelf. Their 2005 and 2008 Gallice (cabernet-merlot-malbec) impressed for intense flavour, smooth tannins and elegant structure. But good as they were, the shiraz kept drawing us back – a ripe, full flavoured wine (14.4 per cent alcohol) but with delicious, spicy, savoury cool-climate flavours and fine-boned, silky tannins. It’s available at

Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Spatlese 2010
(Joh. Jos. Christoffel Erben) $15.79

Urziger Wurzgarten vineyard, Mosel River, Germany
Thank you Costco for importing this pristine, screwcap-sealed Mosel. We visited the Mosel in September, renewing our love for the region’s unique, delicate rieslings. But this is by far the cheapest, high-quality version we’ve found in Australia. From the Wurzgarten vineyard, near the central Mosel village of Urzig, it captures the region’s unique, exquisite, delicate balance of acidity, sweetness and intense varietal flavour. Food match: none. Chill and enjoy on its own (alcohol just eight per cent).

Barolo (Araldica Flori) 2006 $17.49
Barolo, Piemonte, Italy
Like the Mosel reviewed above, the price of Costco’s Barolo seems delightfully at odds with prevailing market expectations. Perhaps it reflects Costco’s great buying power. Certainly it demonstrates smart buying, for these are good, if not cutting edge, examples of their styles. If you’re into gamey meats, this light-coloured, austere, tight and tannic red could be just what you’re after. It may not appeal to lovers of big, round, juicy wines (like Barossa shiraz). But if you love ‘em with a bit of thrust and bite, this could be it.

Dominique Portet Fontaine Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 $20
Yarra Valley and Heathcote, Victoria
Some time back veteran winemaker Dominique Portet handed over to his son, Ben, maker of this beguiling blend. It’s one of those “don’t mind if I do” wines, where the first glass, hardly noticed, becomes two – or three. Suddenly the bottle’s gone, and you want more. A bright and aromatic wine, Fontaine combines the elegance and backbone of Yarra Valley cabernet with the power and savouriness of Heathcote shiraz.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
First published 14 December 2011 in The Canberra Times

Crown Ambassador de Luxe Lager — layers of flavour

Australia’s largest brewer, Fosters, makes one of Australia’s finest craft beers – Crown Ambassador de Luxe Lager. Ambassador measures up as “craft” on all fronts – quality, small production (4,000 to 7,000 bottles annually) and hands-on production by John Cozens and two brewing colleagues.

This year Cozens released the 2011 vintage, fourth in this series of high-alcohol, bottle-conditioned lagers.

It builds on the four previous vintages, adding what Cozens calls “layers of flavour” as he tweaks the style each year. In 2009 he introduced crystal malt to the blend, to add caramel and toffee notes. In 2010, a couple of hand-me-down oak barrels from Foster’s wine division added complexity, as well some unwanted characters to the blend.

This year’s release, incorporating handpicked galaxy hops from Bright, and a portion fermented new French oak, seems the most layered, pleasing brew yet.

Crown Ambassador Reserve Lager 2011 $90
Dark, cloudy, golden-amber Crown pours with a dense head and enticing aroma of floral-citrus hops and sweet caramel. Over an hour or as so it warms from fridge to room temperature, the silky textured brew s reveals layers of caramel and toffee malt flavours, spicy notes and both the flavour and bitterness of hops.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
First published 14 December 2011 in The Canberra Times


Wine review — Cherubino, Eden Road and Zonte’s Footstep

Cherubino Great Southern Riesling 2011 $35
Cherubino Pemberton Sauvignon Blanc 2011 $35

As a winemaker for BRL Hardy (at the time the biggest vineyard owner in Western Australia) Larry Cherubino developed an intimate knowledge of the state’s vineyards – a knowledge he now exploits with great aplomb in producing his own wines. His Great Southern Riesling 2011 combines intensity of flavour and textural richness with a unique delicacy – an exciting, racy riesling to enjoy with salads and cold cuts. Cherubino makes several sauvignons, including this full-flavoured, soft version from Pemberton. It combines sauvignons distinctive herbaceous with a subtle touch of oak-derived spice and savouriness.

Eden Road Canberra District Riesling 2011 $21
Shortly after vintage this year, Eden Road wines purchased Doonkuna Estate, Murrumbateman, then relocated from Kamberra Winery, Watson, to the heart of Canberra’s shiraz and riesling country. By then, winemaker Nick Spencer had already made this distinctive Murrumbateman riesling – fermented in 2,500-litre old oak vats. This is an unusual technique in Australia (stainless steel is the norm), but commonplace in Alsace and Germany. This micro-oxidative technique generally mutes primary fruit flavour and adds texture. In Spencer’s wine, the pleasantly tart, lemony character of the cool 2011 vintage cuts through the rich, fine texture, leaving a lingering, clean, fresh aftertaste.

Zonte’s Footstep Canto di Lago
Langhorne Creek Sangiovese Barbera 2010 $17.49–$20

Like the name, the wine combines bits of Italy and Australia.  A 50:50 blend of the Italian varieties sangiovese and barbera, Canto di Lago (song of the lake), brings together the sweet, brisk, piquant, summer-berry flavours of barbera and the firm, fine savoury tannins of sangiovese. The same blend made in Italy probably wouldn’t much resemble this all-Australian effort. It reflects the unique growing conditions of Langhorne Creek, cooled by breezes from nearby Lake Alexandrina, and a modern Australian approach to winemaking – capturing the pure, clean flavours of the grapes and sealing them in a bottle with an hygienic screw cap.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
First published 11 December 2011 in The Canberra Times

Wine review — Cherubino, Hewitson, Bollinger, Dal Zotto and Eden Road

Cherubino Sauvignon Blanc 2011 $35
Porongurup, Great Southern, Western Australia

So many mediocre sauvignon blancs around. But occasionally a wine, usually from France’s Loire Valley, challenges that prejudice. The latest challenge comes from Larry Cherubino’s beautiful 2011 from Porongurup, a rocky knob, just north of Albany, Western Australia. This is a delicate, gentle, soft, subtle expression of the variety. It’s delicious from beginning to end, starting with a delicate herbal and citrus aroma and flavour, then expanding to include the sympathetic, spicy, savoury thrust of French oak. This is a thrilling white from a master winemaker. See

Hewitson Miss Harry 2010 $21.85–$24
Barossa Valley, South Australia
The 11th vintage of Miss Harry combines five red varieties from 25 sites across the Barossa. “Five of these were over 100-year-old vineyards and half of the remaining were well over 50 years”, writes winemaker Dean Hewitson. Grenache (44 per cent of the blend) lends the wine its ripe, floral and spice aroma; and shiraz (39 per cent) adds body and savoury, spicy flavour. The other varieties (mourvedre, carignan and cinsault) play their role, too, in this vibrant, spicy, soft and richly textured, medium-bodied dry red – a charming red, well suited to Christmas cold cuts, especially ham.

Champagne Bollinger Special Cuvee $55.90–$110
Champagne region, France
Tumbling Champagne in Australia, began with parallel importing by the big retailers, but now seems driven more by the strong dollar, intense competition and reportedly declining sales in big export markets. You can still pay over $100 for good old Bolly, but as I write, Dan Murphy offers it at $55.90 as part of a six-bottle buy. Bollinger remains one of the most delightful non-vintage Champagnes, in its own distinctive style – full-bodied, but amazingly delicate and lively. The flavour and structure reveal a high pinot component (pinot noir 60 per cent, pinot meunier 15 per cent) ­– but chardonnay provides the liveliness and adds to its elegance.

Dal Zotto Pucino Prosecco $19.95–$22
King Valley, Victoria
Prosecco’s Italian home is the Valdobbiadene district, near Conegliano in the Veneto region. The variety makes light, delicate aperitif-style sparkling wines, usually tank fermented (Charmat method) and served as young and fresh as possible. Otto Dal Zotto, born in Valdobbiadene, released his first Australian prosecco in 2004, claiming it be the first Australian-made version on the market. It’s a terrific alternative to the other bubbly styles, with its light body, low alcohol (11.5 per cent) and zesty, lemony but soft palate. The King Valley, with its strong Italian heritage, is now Australia’s heartland for this style.

Eden Road Wines The Long Road Shiraz 2010 $22
Gundagai, New South Wales
In the 2011 Canberra Regional Wine Show, three 2010 shirazes won gold medals – Clonakilla Hilltops ($25), Eden Road Gundagai ($45) and Eden Road The Long Road ($22). Judges ranked Long Road, the cheapest, as the best of three, albeit by a small margin. If the judges found little quality difference between the $22 and $45 Eden Road wines, they surely noted the marked style differences between the siblings (both from Gundagai). The Long Road portrays the bright aromatics of shiraz. This character comes through, too, on the medium bodied palate, that includes a spicy, savoury seam.

Eden Road Wines Gundagai Shiraz 2010 $45
Gundagai, New South Wales
Fractionally lower in alcohol (13.1 per cent versus 13.4 per cent) than its sibling, reviewed above, this single-vineyard wine expresses more of the peppery, spicy, savoury side of shiraz – with an overall tighter, firmer more assertive palate. There’s bright, aromatic fruit, too. But the savouriness, persistent, firm but fine tannins and buoyant, juicy fruit flavours pushing through, make this a particularly satisfying red. See

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
First published 7 December 2011 in The Canberra Times

Argentina comes to Canberra

Imports of wine from Argentina barely register in Australia. But they’re growing rapidly from a small base says President of Sommeliers Australia, Ben Edwards.

Argentina’s Second Secretary Trade, Juan Ignacio Roccatagliata, confirms a doubling of exports to Australia to $1.4 million in the period January to September 2011 versus the same period last year.

It’s not a big figure. But the sudden growth reveals a concerted export push from Argentina’s once domestically focused producers. And for Australian drinkers it expands the choice from Argentina’s signature red, malbec, to include the country’s number two red variety, bonarda, and its distinctive white, torrontes.

The latter two give Argentina a unique wine offering – something to grab our attention. And they did at a Canberra trade tasting last week, hosted by Argentina ambassador Pedro Villagra Delgado.

Edwards, recently returned from Argentina and aided by a panel of importers, moderated the event, attended mainly by local restaurateurs.

We started the tasting with six torrontes whites, one from Mendoza, Argentina’s largest growing region, the others from Cafayate, Salta, in the north.

Few of us in the room, apart from the panellists, had tasted the variety before, so we held few preconceptions.

While the wines varied considerably in style, several common threads connected them – strong aromatics, characterised by the musk-like and lychee-like flavours we associate with gewürztraminer and other muscat-influenced varieties; fresh but very soft acidity; and a textural richness we also associate with the muscat varieties.

Generally the wines appeared bright and fresh, separated stylistically, broadly speaking, by the extent of muscat influence in the flavour and texture. Different tasters preferred different styles – some of us favoured the lighter, delicate, less muscaty wines; others preferred the more rounded flavours and textures.

My top wine, by a fair margin, was Trumpeter Reserva Torrontes 2009, a Mendoza wine imported by Wines of Chile and Argentina ( I detected a bit of apple-like freshness in the otherwise muscat-driven aroma and flavour, with a delicate, fresh and soft finish – a wine of some finesse in this line up. It’s a unique style and very enjoyable.

Torrentes is generally regarded as an Argentinean variety. After prolonged debate about its origins, DNA profiling eventually identified the three dominant torrontes strains as distinct but closely related varieties, all derived from separate crossings of mission with muscat of Alexandria.

Ben Edwards says he’s observed a finessing of the style in recent years as producers seek greater brightness and freshness while preserving the unique varietal characteristics.

We moved from torrentes to a bracket of six reds, including five made from bonarda, Argentina’s second most important red variety (after malbec), and thought to be either bonarda piemontese or bonarda novarese, originally from Italy.

Retail prices of the wines varied from around $15 to $135 and once again preferences among tasters varied widely. We didn’t know the prices as we tasted. My top two wines were the second most expensive and the cheapest – the latter attracting wide support among tasters.

They appealed for different reasons. Felipe Rutini Antologia XXIV 2008 (about $90), from Tupungato, Mendoza, combined plummy fruit, with a pleasant dusting of oak adding a layer of complexity, through both its savoury tannins and flavour input. While I liked the wine in the line up, I wouldn’t pay this much for it. (Imported by Wines of Chile and Argentina).

On the other hand, the $15 Mi Terruno Uvas Bonarda 2010, from Maipu, Mendoza, revealed a bright, fresh, fruity, medium-bodied, easy-drinking side of bonardo – an affordable delight. It’s imported by Untapped Fine Wines (

A run of 15 mostly delicious malbecs, the last four from individual vineyards, put us back into familiar territory.

At its best this variety delivers full, juicy, delicious flavours and really silk-smooth tannins – a winning combination.

The line up varied from the fruity, simple and inexpensive to the quite complex, featuring layers of flavour – but all within the juicy, silky malbec context.

My favourite of the juicy, inexpensive wines was Tahuan Tahuantinsuyu Malbec 2009 (about $20) – an aromatic, pretty wine, full of buoyant, lovable fruit flavours. (Imported by JED Wines –

Of the more layered wines, I particularly liked Ernesto Catena Siesta Malbec 2008 (about $25), imported by JED Wines; Achaval Ferrer Malbec 2010 (about $45), imported by Departure Lounge Wines (; Felipe Rutini Malbec 2008 (about $36), imported by Wines of Chile and Argentina; O. Fournier Alfa Crux Malbec 2007 (about $64), imported by Untapped Fine Wines; and Mi Terrunao Mayacaba 2007 (about $58), imported by Untapped Fine Wines.

Over coming months I’ll write full reviews of these wines. There’ll also be a follow-up story on Argentina’s unique, high-altitude vineyards, hugging the eastern slopes of the Andes along about 17 degrees of latitude.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
First published 7 December 2011 in The Canberra Times

Beer review — Lobethal and Beer Here

Lobethal Bierhaus Christmas Ale 330ml $4.90
Alister Turnbull’s Adelaide Hill brewery spices its very dark Christmas ale with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and Belgian candy. But the spices sit subtly behind the malt. High alcohol (7.5 per cent) adds extra body to the already rich, sweet malt flavours sitting at the centre of this round, soft, after-dinner brew.

Beer Here Jule IPA (Denmark) 500ml $15.50
The vibrant, deep golden colour matches the zesty, pungent, citrus-like hops aroma hovering over the sweet malt. The opulent palate combined sweet malt with alcohol, cut by the citrus flavour and assertive bitterness of the hops, giving the pleasing effect of bitter orange rind in a fruitcake.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
First published 7 December 2011 in The Canberra Times